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Senate budget hides permanent cut to education behind court-ordered inflation funding

Proposal means another loss for Arizona’s public school students, educators, and families.
The Senate leadership released a proposed state budget on May 14, 2013, that permanently cuts nearly $240 million annually from our schools and funds the inflation increase for the public education budget for the first time since 2009.
During the economic downturn, legislators suspended $239 million per year in funding for school soft capital and school district capital outlay budgets.  These funds address ongoing, student-centered needs such as instructional supplies.  Legislators called these cuts “hard choices.” 

Despite a rebounding, growing economy and available revenue, Senate Bill 1487 includes a provision to make these reductions permanent while combining the two funds and renaming them as “district additional assistance.”  The net result is a permanent cut to per-pupil funding of approximately $264 per student per year.

“AEA is encouraged to see the Senate meet its responsibility to our students and to the voters of Arizona by fully funding the inflation factor,” says AEA President Andrew F. Morrill, “however, this plan falls far short of the investment our schools need to support higher demands on students and teachers. Most disturbing, the proposed budget masks permanent funding cuts of nearly $240 million to our schools each year.”

Senate Bill 1487 also includes an inflation increase of 1.8 % to both the base level and transportation component. This will increase the base level from $3,267.72 to $3,326.54. This move follows the Arizona Education Association’s victory in the Arizona Court of Appeals, challenging the legislature’s refusal to fully fund inflation against clear voter intent when Arizona passed Proposition 301 in 2000. Despite inclusion of the inflation funding in the budget, the state is currently appealing the Appellate Court ruling.

“Over the last five years our schools have suffered over $1 billion in cuts to education funding—cuts legislators said the sluggish economy demanded—resulting in larger class sizes, layoffs, school closures, program cuts to arts, music, and sports, and a lack of resources for our students and schools,” says Morrill.  “Arizona’s legislative leaders need to stop forcing choices between healthy students and students who are well-educated.”

Read AEA's detailed analysis of the senate budget proposal and how it will impact Arizona's students and schools.

Update May 17, 2013: Many amendments were adopted to the original budget. Read summary of major amendments. Read final budget passed by Senate.

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